Dr. Jemilah Mahmood

You should see what they are doing before you can understand people`s situation. We should have sympathy and empathize with them.

She is a mother…
A wife…
A doctor curing people in the hospital…
A goodwill ambassador running to help out the people in disaster struck areas
Dr. Jemilah Mahmood…

Jemilah Mahmood’s journey to kindness started early on when she was quite young. Growing up in an inter-racial family with a Malaysian father and a Chinese mother she has a culturally diverse background. Her father`s charity work left an permanent mark in her mind and always guided her like a compass of kindness in the future. Jemilah Mahmood, who she says was inspired by her father, describes him as a quiet and thoughtful man, and also an avid book reader.

Jemilah Mahmood used to see strangers every morning in their house when she woke up in the morning. Her dad would always host the needy and the poor in his house. He would try to meet their needs and they would try their best together as a family to solve their problems. When she would inquire about who these people are her dad would reply, “This one is looking for a job and the other does not have a home.”

Since she was a curious child Jemilah Mahmood would always strike up a conversation with these stranger guests at home. She believes that this experience helped her develop the ability to empathize and have sympathy for others. According to her “You should see what they are doing before you can understand people`s situations.” So Jemilah would have conversations with every homeless who came in to their house. Regardless of her young age she would try to understand their situations and feel the hardship they go through in the places where they come from.

“I grew up in a family who loved caring for others. We lived together with the needy families. My family never shied away from helping out others. They always treated others with much generosity” Jemilah Mahmood describes her family. Thanks to her parents’ generosity and kindness to others she learned sharing and helping others at a young age.

As a child Jemilah Mahmood used to spend much of her time with her dad thus learned how to help others, to be concerned their troubles. She picked up this sentiment from her dad, who always had a special place in her life. Jemilah Mahmood`s dad is her role model and her hero, who would always protect her against evil.

Jemilah lost her dad, who was so important to her, to cancer when she was nine. Jemilah, who used to hang out with her dad all the time, says that she had a hard time getting used to his absence as her world was turned upside down with his death.

After that nine-years old Jemilah continued her education with her mum’s support. When she was fourteen she went to Singapore in order to support her family members. She says that it was a big responsibility for a teenager in her age and she never forgets those times.

The educators who crossed paths with Jemilah Mahmood also left their mark on her. Their emphasis on education; teachings about the importance of giving back to society and humanity at large, and encouragements to do charity kept her on the path of kindness. In her choice for a profession although her family advised her to choose journalism she opted for medicine, as she loved to fight hardship.

Born in 1959 Jemilah Mahmood graduated from medicine in University Malaya in 1986 and earned her doctorate in gynaecological diseases in 1992. After further training in Switzerland and the UK she started treating patients. She has achieved her goal but she had the urge to do something different to help everybody, as there were millions of people in need of help around the world. She had the desire to reach out and offer a helping hand to them. Jemilah Mahmoud used to watch destitute people struggling with disasters or caught up in wars on TV with great sorrow. Yet something kept her from taking the initiative to do something for them.

She learned sharing and helping others from her family and made up her mind to live a life in the same way. Because she knew how random acts of kindness felt as she experienced it as a child. Once doing good was engraved in someone`s soul she would return to that definitely. However she could not manage to take the first step for doing charity as her career and family life kept her busy for a while. One day as she was watching tv with her son she got upset when she saw desperate people in need. “You are a doctor, you can help them” her five-year-old son advised. Her urge to do something good was getting stronger everyday. One day she woke up and thought that she loved her patients, she loved her job but she still could not get where she wanted to be. At first she intended to join Médecins Sans Frontières. She could reach out to the countries struck by wars and disasters through this organization. She could treat the patients in that region and develop projects to meet their needs. However she thought that it would be difficult for Western organizations to get in touch with people in those areas. A surge of love and an urge to create a network of kindness to fill the gap came over her. Yes Dr. Jemilah Mahmood should do that she believed. She has been restless for months, as she did not do anything to help out people in disaster struck areas. Because she wanted to go back to her childhood and offer a helping hand to the destitute like her parents used to do. Her failure to do so has been eating her up and keeping her awake at night. She decided to start a charity organization without further ado. With the help of her family and husband she began working toward establishing a humanitarian relief organization that would meet the needs in this field.

MERCY Charity Organization

Dr. Jemilah Mahmood received the greatest support on her journey to help others from her husband Ashar Abdullah who is a doctor just like herself. Together they established a medical charity organization in Malaysia. Jemilah Mahmood, who tells that the original idea belongs to her husband Dr. Ashar Abduallah, established the organization in 1999.

In fact everything started with the violent conflict that started in Kosovo in 1999 that took thousands of lives. Dr. Jemilah Mahmood volunteered to offer a helping hand to the women and children caught up in war in Kosovo.

After she was unable to find an organization that would facilitate the relief efforts in disasters and wars she got together with likeminded friends and established Medical Relief Society Malaysia aka MERCY. The organization’s one of the objectives was to involve Malaysians in humanitarian efforts and provide a platform to facilitate humanitarian activities. MERCY is established to help out vulnerable people regardless of their faith, race, culture or frontiers thus its only goal is kindness… Humanitarian activists volunteering for MERCY teams come from all sorts of backgrounds.

This network of goodwill and charity based on voluntary involvement and personal sacrifices spread out and grew bigger everyday managing to put a smile on faces of millions of people to whom it delivered aid.

Jemilah Mahmood served as the organizer of this network of charity from 1999 up to 2010, for 11 years. She brought together Malaysians and non-Malaysians around kindness.

In Ache, Indonesia

The earthquake that happened in Indian Ocean in 2004 resulted in tsunamis reaching as high as 30 metres at times, which cost over two hundred thousand lives. Hence it became the tsunami that took the highest number of lives in history. Jemilah Mahmood went to Ache, Indonesia as a humanitarian and managed the team of volunteers in delivering food, clothes, medical aid and other basic human needs to the victims. Her greatest asset is her ability to organize the local people quickly and efficiently in disaster-struck places.

Jemilah Mahmood managed to involve local people take role in relief efforts by successfully and effectively communicating with them. Her work in Ache was not limited to this only. She helped local people who lost their homes to build new homes. In addition to providing aid in case of emergencies in disaster area she initiated efforts to improve their healthcare system. To this end, she helped open a nursing school in Ache, Indonesia. Through her efforts educated and qualified people were able to speedily spread to the area. She also made sure that volunteers received comprehensive training in disaster risk reduction, preparation and rescue operations before disasters.

Apart from Indonesia she also helped people, who lost their homes in disasters, rebuild their houses in disaster-struck countries like Sudan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, and Myanmar. She took active role in rebuilding hospitals and schools. This champion of social change and innovation asked for the place of the school in an disaster-struck area she has just arrived. And when the locals pointed to the place where it used to stand to the surprise of everyone around she responded “Then let’s start building it right away.” Hence they started building the school and completed it very quickly together with the locals.

Escaped Death in Bagdad

Jemilah Mahmood is a brave humanitarian as much as she is generous. When the war started in Bagdad she volunteered without a moment`s hesitation to try help the patients under the drones and buzzing bullets.

This one incident that happened to her when she went to Bagdad as a humanitarian proves her passion for doing good to everyone. Dr. Jemilah Mahmood came under fire on the way to go get medicine and relief supplies in Iraq due to a mistake. They confused the ambulance team with the vehicle of those bombing the city. It was a tragic incident as Dr. Jemilah Mahmood was shot in the hip and other two doctors were heavily wounded.

Her response in the hospital to where she was taken after the accident showcased her love for humanity. When the doctors in the hospital wanted to remove the bullet in her body she refused and reasoned that others in the hospital need medical attention more than she does at the moment. Her dad taught her as a child that one should not bypass someone who is more needy than oneself. She stayed with the bullet in her body for five days even attended to the patients in that state. “They need treatment more than I do” she explained ignoring her pain.

After a while the man, who gunned down their ambulance, walked up to Dr. Jemilah Mahmood and apologized. He said he did it by mistake and asked for forgiveness. Regardless of all the trouble she had suffered Dr. Jemilah Mahmood forgave him without a moment`s hesitation. She did not have the slightest grudge against that man. Jamilah was so affected by her time in Iraq where she used to see people whom she met a short while ago brought to the hospital as an injured person drenched in blood or worse as a dead body. “Wars are waged against the people and people no longer know whom to trust” says Dr. Jemilah Mahmood as she experienced people`s fear for losing loved ones and families during the war.

Goodwill Ambassador Dr. Jemilah Mahmood

The wind under my wings…

This is how Dr. Jemilah Mahmood describes her husband who is her biggest supporter. She also is grateful to her family who instilled in her the passion for doing good as she was growing up.

Jemilah Mahmood`s life is full of acts of kindness. She put great efforts for risk reduction, relief aid, education and elimination of poverty and orchestrated humanitarian relief campaigns.

In one of her speeches she complained about how people developed apathy against wars and how their minds regarded it as an ordinary thing. With great sorrow she told how people wanted to keep distance with tragedies and did not want to get involved and turned into insensitive individuals. She sees that people are growing apart from sympathy and empathy in their daily lives.

When a surge for love for humanity and the urge to do good came over Dr. Jemilah Mahmood she could no longer stay at home and set off to reach out to the needy and vulnerable people wherever they might be. Sometimes she held the hand of a child caught up in war; sometimes she carried bricks to build a house for the victims who lost their homes. She changed the fate of so many with her efforts.

With her track record Dr. Jemilah Mahmood proves that kindness can change the world.


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